Whether you’re throwing a Friendsgiving or having your family over on the actual day, hosting Thanksgiving is a lot of pressure. And as much as I consider myself the hostess with the mostess, holiday hosting is on a whole other level… probably because everyone already has an expectation; of what their mom’s stuffing tastes like or how they carve the turkey, etc. But hosting is the perfect opportunity to create new traditions and share a little extra love during the holidays.
But what goes into hosting a Thanksgiving dinner? I mean it’s not just another meal, it’s so much more! After all, it is the most anticipated dinner party of the year! In order to host, you have to have a game plan. I’ve compiled just a few tips and tricks to help you navigate Thanksgiving whether it’s your first time hosting or your 100th.
YOUR TABLE SCAPE
Whether you have the decorating style of Joanna Gaines or Kris Jenner, a table setting can put your dinner parties over the top! I always start with a color scheme, that way my dishes coordinate with my centerpiece, which coordinate with the table cloth etc. Whatever your taste – rustic, minimal, elegant – Find your niche and stick to it! Planning your table gives you something to prep ahead of time so you don’t have to stress about it day of! (Plus I personally find it more fun than the actual cooking) And don’ forget, the devil is in the details! So find ways to make your table stand out! Pinterest is always my go-to for inspiration. Below are a few of my favorites!
Now I will admit, there is nothing like the pressure of getting a meal right when you are cooking for your entire family, especially when it’s a dinner that’s been planned for the last 6 months. My advice? Stray away from the norm. Don’t trash the classics, but modify them so that you feel confident that all your dishes will be presentable (and more importantly, edible.) Be aware of what will need to cook the longest, the general temperature your oven will be sitting at all day , and what you can prep the night before. Below are some recipes that have never failed me. Yes, they are all from Pinterest and I have included their original links as well! To see the rest of my Thanksgiving recipe ideas click here.
2 large Granny Smith or fuji apples, peeled (if desired), cored, and coarsely chopped (about 3 cups)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (6 cloves)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup chicken broth
Small fresh sage leaves (optional)
– Directions –
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Spread bread cubes in a 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Bake, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes or until cubes are dry, stirring twice; cool. (Cubes will continue to dry and crisp as they cool.) Or let bread cubes stand, loosely covered, at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly coat twelve 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with cooking spray; set aside.
In an extra large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Drain on paper towels; crumble bacon. Drain fat, reserving 2 tablespoons drippings in skillet.
Add butter to skillet. Add onions, celery, and herbs; cook over medium heat for 7 to 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Add apples and garlic; cook and stir for 2 to 4 minutes or until apple is just softened. Transfer to an extra large bowl.
Add bread cubes, crumbled bacon, and pepper to vegetable mixture; toss gently to combine. Add broth and toss until moistened.
Spoon about 2/3 cup stuffing into each prepared muffin cup; press to pack tightly. If desired, top each cup with a fresh sage leaf. Bake, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes or until stuffing is hot and tops are light brown. Cool about 10 minutes. Carefully remove from pans; serve warm. Makes 12 servings.
2 (2-3 pound) half turkey breasts, bone-in and skin on
Canola or olive oil
2 teaspoons herbs de Provence
1 teaspoon paprika
Orange-Honey Glaze (recipe below)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
Preheat the oven to 375°, and line a baking sheet with foil.
Place the turkey breasts bone-side down onto the baking sheets, and drizzle with a couple of tablespoons of the oil; sprinkle a couple of good pinches of salt and black pepper over each of the turkey breasts, along with the herbs de Provence and the paprika divided equally among each.
Insert a digital thermometer into the thickest part of one of the breasts.
Next, pour the Orange-Honey Glaze into two separate small bowls, reserving one half for after the turkey is sliced, and using the other half to brush over the turkey as it roasts.
Place the turkey breasts into the oven to roast, and after 30 minutes, brush them liberally with the glaze.
Continue to roast for another 10 minutes, and then brush on more of the glaze.
Continue to roast for another 10 minutes, and brush once more with the glaze; roast for about another 10 minutes, and remove the breasts from the oven once the internal temperature reaches 165°.
Allow the turkey breasts to rest for about 10 minutes before slicing the meat; then once sliced, drizzle just a little of the reserved glaze over the slices, and sprinkle over the fresh rosemary and thyme before serving.
– Glaze Ingredients –
¾ cup honey
1 teaspoon, heaping, orange zest
¼ cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
Add all of the ingredients to a small sauce pan, and whisk to combine; bring to the boil and reduce the heat to low to gently simmer the glaze for 10 minutes.
-Pour the glaze into a bowl or glass container, and allow it to cool until thickened and glossy before using.
Place carrots on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
Drizzle with butter/garlic mixture.
Roast in oven for 15 minutes.
Shake pan ocassionally to rotate carrots.
Top with cheese and roast for another 10 minutes or until carrots reach desired doneness.
Top with parsley and serve immediately
While these recipes aren’t necessarily traditional, they don’t stray far from the classics! They are a perfect stepping stone for your first time hosting and a heck of a lot easier than trying to tackle a whole turkey + 3 casseroles and a dessert. Plus they are way easier to use for leftovers!
Traditions Old and New
Thanksgiving is usually chalked full of traditions that have been passed down from years before – specific dishes used to set the table, recipes made every year without question – but when you’re the host, it’s the perfect time to introduce something new; a tradition that you can call your own. Find a craft, a movie, a board game, or maybe a new way of getting your guests to share what they’re thankful for. Whatever the case may be, make it unique to your group. Who knows, it might even stick and be passed down to the next generation!
This year I am hosting Thanksgiving by myself in my little home in Dallas. I am choosing to be excited instead of stressed, choosing to be thankful that I will be surrounded by my family instead of alone in my apartment, and choosing to make it memorable. As I get older, Thanksgiving becomes more meaningful to me. This holiday isn’t just a speed bump on the way to Christmas – it’s an opportunity to slow down, take a breath, and appreciate the things that surround you the other 364 days of the year.